Book Excerpt: 'The Survivors Club'

Paparazzi-style, a young doctor snapped her photo and then took mug-shot close-ups of the offending needle. Then the doctors delivered the really scary news. The point of the needle had grazed her heart, nicking the right ventricle. They could see internal bleeding. They needed to operate as soon as possible. Klor gave them her consent, and they rolled her up to the surgical suite and prepped her for the operation. This was her last memory of the ordeal.

Less than an hour after her tumble on the porch stairs, trauma surgeons would cut her chest open and crack her sternum. They would stitch up her heart. They would wire her breastbone back together and sew her up. They would leave a seven-inch scar from her neck to the middle of her chest. They would save her life. And then, by chance or fate, the knitting needle would save her life all over again. In fact, Klor's real struggle for survival was just beginning.

1. The First Rule: Everyone Is a Survivor

On the bright side, it's probably safe to say you're never going to end up with a knitting needle through the heart. But it's equally indisputable that eventually you will face some kind of life-and-death crisis or struggle. Dr. David Spain has a blunter way of putting it. He runs the trauma and critical care department at Stanford Medical Center and sees what happens to regular people all the time. Every day, he says, some of us get dressed, kiss our families good-bye, walk out the door, and get run over by cement trucks. There's no rhyme or reason, but it happens again and again.* I don't mean to depress or scare you. It's just a reality that survivors understand. No matter how hard we dodge, deny, or resist, a cement truck or a hurricane or some other calamity is waiting around the corner for each of us.** Eventually, everyone joins the fellowship of men and women who have been knocked around by life. Admission is inescapable. Membership is inevitable. The first rule of this book is that everyone is destined to become a survivor.

For our purposes, survivor is defined as "anyone who faces and overcomes adversity, hardship, illness, or physical or emotional trauma." Survivors keep going despite opposition and setbacks. They may want to quit but they still persevere. Some even manage to excel under the worst circumstances. They make the most of misfortune. They grow in ways they never could have imagined. They don't just exist or subsist. They live fully. In the jargon of the ?eld, they thrive. Whether they survive six months or sixty years, they make the most of their time. Survivor comes from the French survivre, which means "to live beyond or longer than." It originates from the Latin supervivere. Super means "over, beyond" and vivere means "to live." Survivors quite literally are super livers.

* Fatal accidents involving trucks are routine, but it's a little surprising how often people run into cement trucks. In May 2007 in Puyallup, Washington, for instance, a forty-seven-year-old man was killed when his Mercedes was struck by a cement truck. In April 2007 in Roseville, California, a sixty-year-old pedestrian was killed by a cement truck. In February 2007 in Washington, DC, a homeless man was struck and killed by a cement truck. And in January 2007 in Saddle River, New Jersey, a retired surgeon driving another Mercedes was crushed by a cement mixer.

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